Will’s asked me to write a few lines about our Beethoven 9 project (or ‘patch’ as we call it in the office) last month, but I’m not really sure where to start- it was extremely eventful!

It started off as a concert in London on the Friday, followed by a concert in San Sebastian on the Sunday. First change: San Sebastian ende

Valladolid Auditorium

Valladolid Auditorium

d up being Valladolid. Then the Spaniards decided they wanted a concert in Madrid on the Saturday and possibly in Barcelona on the Tuesday. Then the Barcelona concert was scrapped. At this point we were very sad to hear that Sir Charles Mackerras was unwell and could not do our concerts, so the hunt was on for another conductor, who could do all three.

Fortunately Ilan Volkov came to the rescue, so back to the grindstone to organise those last minute flight details. One week to go, and after months of hanging on to finalise the details we thought we were finally there, and then,

the Madrid concert was cancelled! Unfortunately it was too late to change our flights to go a day later so the orchestra were very pleased to find out they had a free night in Madrid (especially as this was the night of THE big football match – Madrid vs Barcelona…). With the Madrid concert cancelled we had some last minute changes with the instrument transport and we enrolled Bonzo ‘our man with a van’ to truck our instruments to Spain for us (we now had an extra day to do this and it is a lot safer for the instruments than flying).

The day of the trip arrived, we had a very pleasant midday flight and a lovely afternoon off in the sunshine of Madrid. After a Spanish supper I headed back to the hotel for a nightcap with one of the horn players to find one of our violinists in the foyer of the hotel. She had had to fly out later than the group and had arrived at the hotel very late only to find that there was no room booked for her, the hotel was fully booked, so muggins here offered to give her my room and I transferred across the city to another hotel just for the night. I eventually made it to bed, later than anticipated (and without the aforementioned nightcap) only to be woken up by a rowdy party in the building next door, with choice Spanish dance music and what I can only guess was some Barcelona supporters celebrating the results of the match…

I woke up the next morning feeling a little worse for wear thanks to the party-goers, packed my bag and headed back across town to the original hotel for breakfast. Feeling a little self conscious with all the looks I was getting from the locals as I was wearing a dress and flip flops (ok, it was the beginning of April and all the Spaniards were wearing coats and scarves, but the sun was out!) I attempted to get to the metro station only to find that my path was blocked by an early morning marathon winding its way through the city. I gave up on my attempt to embrace the public transport system and had to get a taxi back to the hotel.

On stage in Valladolid

On stage in Valladolid

I treated myself to a morning stroll through the park and then met up with the rest of the group for our bus journey to Valladolid. Arriving at the concert hall two and half hours later we had a short rehearsal and break, with everyone eating their packed teas as there is no artists bar at the concert hall and nothing is open in Spain on a Sunday evening… I was in charge of one side of the stage for the beginning of the concert and as we started to let the players onto the stage for the beginning of the concert I was accosted by one of the backstage crew who started yelling at me (in Spanish – which I do speak) as we weren’t supposed to let them in yet. Oh dear… this continued as the players continued to slip past me onto the stage (so their instruments can acclimatise to the temperature on stage). Feeling a little overwhelmed by all of this I slipped into the auditorium to watch the concert, but spent most of the 65 minutes calming down from the whole episode (for the record, he came and found me and apologised afterwards, Anglo-Spanish relations maintained!).

We headed back to Madrid on another two and half hour coach journey on which it is tradition to make cups out of old water bottles (see pics)

Jennifer Morsches, cellist, with improvised cups

Jennifer Morsches, cellist, with improvised cups

Oboeist and OAE Education Manager Cherry Forbes

Oboeist and OAE Education Manager Cherry Forbes

and consume a fairly large amount of wine. Arriving back in Madrid I managed a quick nightcap, but made the mistake of sitting next to one of the players (who shall remain nameless) who kept magically topping up my glass of wine. Didn’t feel so great the following morning!

The only task now left was to get everyone home safely back to London, I thought to myself “Nothing else could possibly go wrong now…” just as one of the percussionists walked up to me at the airport and said “I’ve left my passport in the hotel safe”. Thanks to our lovely Spanish promoter we had it taxied to the airport and he made the flight and was home in time to pick up his kids from nursery.

People often think that touring is like a holiday, but it can be very hard work – enough said!

Megan Russell, Projects Manager